Contemporary throat singing
Contemporary throat singing is a genre based on a style of singing in which the singer manipulates various sounds of nature or resonate chanting techniques. There are various aspects to this method such as: screaming, grunting, growling, groaning, quivering or howling. Tanya Tagaq is a Canadian singer who uses this style of singing to create an uneasy, yet very intriguing album. Does this format translate on CD? Yes, but to a certain point. We hear the live performances are outstanding as they are mostly improvised. This album has some really outstanding moments, but unfortunately we feel it is best listened to in small doses, as it becomes a bit tiresome or even overwhelming at times. Her vocals are somewhat inhuman as she balances between beautiful chants to just otherworldly disturbing grunts. It is quite fascinating; you need to hear this for yourself. The music behind all of this is very worldly, it’s a bit steampunk with atmospheric electronics, acoustics, violins and tribal drumming.
That said, Animism opens with "Caribou," and you may think, ‘huh, this isn’t bad, she has a beautiful voice’. Just wait, this song develops into some eerie, evil chant fest, it’s possibly one of the best cuts off the album and after hearing this you’ll want to carry on. "Uja," track two is oddly catchy with the powerful drums, repetitive groans and dark growls. This leads us into "Umingmak," and this song feels a bit too repetitive in the beginning, especially coming off of track two, perhaps it would have sounded better if it were in a different order on the album. "Rabbit" has an ethereal feel with the static machinery sounds along with her soft chants. The second half just quiets down to just her vocals and sounds of nature, it is very trance-like. This takes right into the 8:57 minute "Tulugak" with no break. This one is strangely exploratory with beautiful singing, vocal bird screams and dark troll-like chants. At the five minute mark, it just gets even darker with her demon-like grunts, an off-beat violin and the occasional drum. It becomes tribal after a while and by the end of the song, you’ll feel out of breath and want to clear you’re throat. It's one hell of a captivating song.
As we progress through the album, we come to "Flight," this one is so out there. Her lovely opera-like power vocals over her dark chants feel like a battle of good versus evil. It’s chaotic and beautiful at the same time. Now on "Fight," we hear a constant chant of ‘fight’ beneath the steampunk music and actual singing. "Damp Animal Spirits" is a bit catchy; it’s very impressive how she uses her vocals to create such a unique rhythm. The last two minutes develops into a horror-like show, it’s demonic and sexual. The final track "Fracking" is just flat out fucking creepy; just throw this one on in your dark basement by yourself. It sounds as if she is having the life choked out of her and it doesn’t end. With an intense violin coming into play, it just keeps building and building and we are not sure if she crying or choking, either way it’s intense. Then it drops-off into a soft quivering vocal to bring us to end, perhaps she as at peace now.
Tanya Tagaq is a very unique artist; we can only compare her to the one and only Diamanda Galas, who in her own way is very dark and original. This album is not for everyone, as it is best served in doses. We wanted to rate this higher, because of the talent here, but taking in the whole album at once may drive you mad, it’s hard to get through in one sitting. Either way you take, it is original and will definitely add some odd music to your world. - 9/22/2014
Standout Tracks: Caribou, Damp Animal Spirits